Few people (that know what they are talking about) would argue that having the white pieces in a chess game is considered an advantage… and I agreed with this… but after my last tournament I wasn’t so sure!
The big news from my last tournament is… I got my first IM Norm! So IM (I am) now a 1/3 IM. The really weird thing of the tournament is my difference in score between when I was White and when I was Black.
I got 5 Blacks and 4 Whites (I played 5 games as Black and 4 games as White, to clarify that up a little bit), my Blacks being against 4 higher rated players than me (three of which were the three IMs in the tourney) and 1 lower rated player, and my Whites being against 1 lower rated players, 2 players with FIDE ratings just above me, and 1 whose FIDE was more than 100 points higher than mine. Because this was a Round Robin tournament, rounds and colors are determined before the tournament begins. At first I thought I had really gotten a bad draw having to play the highest rated FIDE player and all three IMs as Black, but my opinion changed through the tournament!!
Now that we have an exciting intro, I will go into the details about the tournament. The tournament was the Sean Christian Memorial/5th Metropolitan Invitational. It is a Fide tournament that Ankit Gupta setup for people trying to get their IM Norms. It is a round robin tournament, meaning that everybody in the tournament plays each other. 9-rounds and 10 players, the time control being 90 minutes with a 30 second increment, and after 40 moves you get another 30 minutes on your clock. Because you get to know who your opponents are and what color you are playing against them, a while before the tournament, you can prepare for them beforehand.
First round, I’m playing FM Joel Banawa as Black. Joel was the highest rated Fide, and had gotten two IM Norms recently. My first impression was a draw would be good, but I will play my best and see what happens. One thing I noticed is that Joel appears to do his prep at the beginning of the game because he seems to take more time than most people in the opening…something I would like to ask him about! He played the English on me and I made an inaccuracy in the opening by taking his Knight too early. I got pushed back a little bit and found my Bishop on an awkward square and ended up pushing my f and c pawns. I felt ok with my position and decided trading Queens would be good, so I offered to trade Queens. Looking at my move, I realized that one of the responses to one of his moves that I had been planning on just really didn’t work. Luckily for me, serendipity was on my side, and I found what looked to me like a pretty good response. Of course, he played the move and I played my move that I supposed to be good. After the game we said that he probably picked the worst reasonable response, or at least I say, but I think I still would have had good counter-play no matter what. After that I got my pawn back and we played on for a while nothing super significant. I felt like I was winning, but I had to find a slightly tricky move and we traded off Queens and it seemed like I was at least better if not winning. We moved back and forth a little bit, we were both low on time and his moves gave the impression that he was fine with a draw. I decided that I would trade Rooks off to guarantee that I had at LEAST a draw… at least because I felt like I was winning. He didn’t take my Rook and just protected his, but I found a Knight check which was a lot stronger than I thought at first and after we played a few more moves, I won.
Second game I was playing IM David Pruess as Black. David Pruess is someone you can’t prepare for very easily. He really could play just about anything!! In fact, a lot of times I don’t think he knows what he is going to play before the game starts! Of course, he played some crazy d4 opening on me, which luckily I had recently glanced at. So I ended up getting an ok position out of the opening. We got into a position very much like an e4 opening (I wasn’t sure at first), but I think he said a French type position. I was pretty sure my plan was completely wrong, at least compared to what I thought the correct plan was in that type of position. But it just… looked right. I followed through with my plan-- take control of c4 and think about where I want to move my dark-squared Bishop. It seemed to work out really well, but it looked like I might have to be careful about some crazy attack on my King (since I hadn’t really castled yet). We played and I even won a pawn which I didn’t quite see what he had coming. At one point I thought I saw this really good Queen move, but quickly realized my Queen would be lost after it. I never castled but I did have to free my Rook, so I decided to move my King over to the other side. Now we are at this point where I am a little low on time and decided my best approach would be to give back the pawn and try and take advantage of his pawns. We traded off Queens and then I weakened one of his pawns and took it. After that I pushed my pawn, sacrificing one and he couldn’t stop my passed pawn. So… well… I won.
Third game I was playing Konstantin Kavutskiy as White.
WARNING: When you see “as White” prepared to be followed by disappointing news, at least for me. Note that there might be few occasions that this does not occur on this Blog.
I was prepared for this game and out of the first three games, this is the only game I was expected to win going by rating. We played a Catalan and he played a sideline on me and I underestimated his chances with the line that was to follow. I was kind of annoyed with my position. It took a lot of thinking, but after several moves I got back into a position that I liked. Then he miscalculated and dropped a pawn. We went into the endgame and I felt good with me being up a pawn. I got my pieces all organized and thought I saw a good move to either trade Knights or push his Knight back, but I just missed something simple giving him the pawn back. And even though I tried not to believe it and pushed for a win, it was just a draw after that.
Fourth game I am playing IM Zhanibek Amanov as Black. He played e4 and we went into the Najdorf, he played a move that is ok (not the best) but still second most played. I knew I had looked at this one line, but I played just more safe and calm. We got to a position that I thought I had seen before in my studying, but his last move seemed bad, it was a very common move in these types of positions, but looking at what I was thinking about playing it looked like I was just going to win a piece. That seemed strange to me because I didn’t remember seeing that variation in the database. I studied it for awhile and since I didn’t see anything wrong with it I played into it and I did win a piece. It wasn’t until later that I saw that my position was different from the one in the database. But after I won a piece there still was some tricks. He had some compensation (not enough, but some) because almost all my pieces were on the back rank and my pawn structure was suffering a little bit. We played on for a while, traded some piece off, and then I had to decide whether trading off Queens, but giving him a pawn maybe two pawns was worth it. I decided it was and he took my pawn. I checked and then trade Queens and he took the second pawn. I trapped his Rook somewhat by moving my Knight over. Then he pushed his pawn to get some space for his Rook and I let his Rook go, but got one pawn back. I put my Rook so it was protecting my pawn and then brought my King in. There were two ideas to bringing my King in, one just getting it active since I like how my Rook and Knight are at the moment, and two to maybe trap his Rook or just push it back. He brought his King in too and then I decided it was time to move my Knight around. I threatened his pawns and finally I thought the position was right for a maneuver to trade or trap his Rook. After my Knight maneuver his Rook was trapped and he finally resigned.
3 for 3 as Black! .5 for 1 as White…
Fifth game I was playing FM Pedram Atoufi as White. I felt good, last time I played him at the 2010 Copper State International was one of my best games at that tournament. We played into the same line as we did in Copper State, but I had an improvement, he played something weird which I followed up incorrectlyL. He got his Knight in a good spot and had some space. I moved my Bishop up which was probably too early and ended trading it off. By this point, I didn’t like my position, but I continued to play on, and there was one point he thought for a long time. After he finally moved, I threatened to push my pawn and he brought his Knight back. I was wondering what was wrong with just taking his pawn, but I was calculating if I could push my pawn anyway. I decided I wasn’t sure, I was starting to get low on time and just decided to take his pawn. He played this Queen move that was really annoying and I just kind of missed. I was still probably ok, but after we traded off Queens and he took his pawn back I messed up and dropped the exchange. After that it was over and in the end he found this good combination and I resigned.
Sixth game I was playing Janyl Tilenbaeva as Black. This is about the point I was starting to be really glad when I was Black. In the opening she played something that was ok, but not great. I’m not sure if she didn’t know this opening or was trying to get me in some tricks. I didn’t follow up the best, but ok. I ended up moving my Knight (that started on g8) to e6 to protect my King. Then I threatened her pawn. She didn’t protect her pawn and castled. I didn’t see what was bad about taking her pawn, she will get some counter-play, but it looked good for me. She pushed her pawn and we ended up trading Queens. After everything settled down a little bit I was kind of annoyed with my position. She just had a lot of pressure on me, and more than I thought when I saw this line at first. So after looking at it for a long time I just tried to develop my Bishop and protect my pawns. She seemed to keep pushing me for a while, but then her pressure started to slowly die down. Finally I found this good tactical idea and good move in general, she made a mistake and let me get two pieces for my Rook, and then she got some pressure on the back rank with her Rook. She tried to bring her other Rook to the back rank, but missed I could just fork her Rooks and resigned after I did.
4/4 with Black, .5 for 2 with White
Stay tuned for my next blog for the continuation of the tournament! I figured this was long enough for one blog! You can see my game with David Pruess here: http://blog.chess.com/dpruess/round-2-and-already-success